Bipolar Disorder Community
Disability, Bipolar and Employment
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Bipolar Disorder is also known as "Manic Depressive Disorder". This forum is for questions and support for people with, or for loved ones of people with Bipolar Disorder. The forum covers topics ranging from Aggressive Behavior, Affect on friends and Family, Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Appetite Changes, Chronic Pain, Denial, Depression, Difficulty Concentrating, Euphoria, Guilt, Manic Depression, Medications, Mood Swings, Poor Judgment, and Sleep Disorders

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Disability, Bipolar and Employment

Hi,
I'm disabled due to my bipolar2 illness and ADD. For the past 7-8 years I've beem down for the count and basically out of action. Within the last year and some change I've found medications, that help me more than anything else has, to get my mind back to functioning almost enough to get back into the "normal" world. Unfortunately doing things on my own terms and without HAVING to do things and be around people doesn't mean that I can function in the regular world.

I had a job last summer. It was full time but it only lasted 5 months, a seasonal job. I checked the box on the application where it asks if you're disabled (the one you don't have to check if you don't want to). I never checked it before because I'm ashamed and because of the problems people have with mental illness in general. This time I checked it because I didn't want to have to try to hide it and try to be someone else. It takes so much energy and it usually makes things worse. After I was hired I thought that my boss knew and that she didn't have a problem with it. After working only a few hours though, I got the feeling she didn't know at all. I ended up having to hide things as best I could. The job wasn't very appealing to very many people and was subsequently not sought after. I was the only applicant and they really needed help so they just hired me.

I did the best I could to hide things but I knew I wasn't doing very well with that. I was getting "the" looks and the odd questions about why I do things. I worked the job better than I was being paid for, and I took it farther, almost to the brown-nose extent, so that they would allow me my quirks and not fire me. I didn't do anything wrong but I just wasn't "right." When I was a kid there were times I had to bring candy so that other kids would be my friend. I don't know that there's much of a difference here. Friends, jobs have to do with who's in front of you, right. If you're tryng to one thing with one crowd you might not get a very good response. But if you did that same thing with another crowd you might just fit right in. The job went well. They allowed me space becaause it wasn't an extremely responsible position. It was almost the perfect job and at the perfect time. It was my first back from the 7-8 years.

I'm able to work mostly. I don't know how my mind would be under a load though. I want to get back into the work force and my life. But I really don't want to have settle for some high-school-graduate-entry-level position any "normal" person could get off the street. I'm over the hiring age and I have a BFA and I have much to offer but all that I'm being shown from various employment help agencies, (including vocational rehab places) are janitorial, landscaping and sales "opportunities." There's got to be something else? I know I can't do major responsibility things but come on. Has anyone had any experience with anything like this? Is having to settle, career-wise, another side effect? If so, ok, then I can learn to accept that. I'm just concerned with how "they" want me to afford things on minimum wage and not get crazier trying to fit myself in the only box I'm allowed.
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952564_tn?1268372247
Hi,
Well, I am BP 2 diagnosed last year, but I'm sure I've had it since childhood. I also have anxiety disorder and BPD and some other issues. I work full time as an office assistant in health care. I am the only assistant in my office and position and I have a lot of responsabilities. I'm telling you it can be very hard when I am cycling and have no concentration, no focus, I can't alphebetize, I lose my spelling ability, I have trouble dialing phone numbers, I forget to do basic things, I lose stuff.... well, you get the idea. My co-workers and supervisors all know about my bipolar and they do not understand and they have made it clear I'm lucky to still be here. I think the only reason is because I was up front with them about it when I was diagnosed.

I consider myself very intelligant and maybe it is inflated ego from my bipolar but a lot of the times having this job makes me feel like a failure. Like I should have done something important and meaningful. I once brought up to a co-worker that I could go to PA school and be a PA and she quickly told me that there was no way a person like me could handle it, just because of the stress. Stress and work are not a good mix for me. It makes me sad because although I am smart, I feel trapped forever in this box, like you said. I do not feel fulfilled by my work.

I have read other testimonials about working bipolar people who are teachers and nurses, etc, but coming back from being on disability, that is tough. Even trying to find a job after being a stay at home mom for 5 years was tough, when that happened to me several years ago. I had to go to vocational school just to get a job like the one I have now, or I would be working at some mall selling clothes.

Anyway, I feel your frustration and good luck in the job hunt. I think if you keep at it and maybe just build up some experience at other jobs, you can find something more fulfilling later. Plus, remember the economy is bad, so it is tough out there right now.

Good luck! Keep us posted.
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1192491_tn?1265035429
I am Bipolar I, BPD and just recently was approved for my disability.  I became unable to function in the corporate world and I don't know that I am even up to trying any type of work.  After so many failures over the last few years due to my Bipolar, my self confidence is non existant.  I still cannot not remember anything, even when I am not having an episode.  My memory is so bad it really scares me.  I cannot handle even the slightest bit of stress anymore with out going into an episode with alot of sudden rage.  

I commend both of your for working and trying to work, it must be scary as you don't know how you are going to do at first.  Personally, I would not tell anyone of my issues with Bipolar.  I would be afraid it would immediately put me under  a microscope and something that other people could use against you.  Only my son, daughter and sister are the only people that know of my illness, I have told no one else in my life.  It's not that I am so ashamed of being Bipolar, it's that people do not understand the illness and just assume you are crazy and weird!

If I can ever go back to work, it will not be in the pressure cooker world I worked in. I would have to have something easy, enjoyable and no stress and probably be part time.

I wish both of you the best!  
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1174019_tn?1269856599
Thank you for responding and sharing. I've noticed that the majority of posts, that I'm familiar with, are quite terse. If that's the usual, it's going to take me a while to get used to responding in a similar manner. I hope that this doesn't sound cold and matter of factly.
I have done the little-job-until-I-can-get-into-something-better thing for nearly my entire work history and it has labeled me a job hopper. That method of keeping myself employed has also kept me from getting work in other areas of interest/trades/etc because employers don't want to be the ones to have to help me get into another line of work. They don't want to be the ones to have to train me (whether they have to or not).

I defaulted on my student loans due to my illness and am unable to get financial assitance for any further education. At least to my knowledge.

My situation wouldn't be so (over exaggerated>) horrible if I didn't have avoidant issues and I actually knew people.

My sense of humor is odd or so I've been told:

- You are disabled but you need to work, here are 50 jobs in 3 categories for you to choose from. Knock yourself out.

- You are disabled but you can do anything you want. Here's a list of 50,000 jobs in 40,000 categories, you are welcome to think positively and apply yourself to any of the 50 jobs in the 3 preselected categories.
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1192491_tn?1265035429
I can understand the job hopping.  I also job hopped due to my illiness and most of the time it was not by my choice. .  I hope someday soon I will be able to get the courage to try to do even the simpest jobs.

Are you drawing disability?  I wonder if the the SSDI program would fund you to return to school to be trained in your area of interest?  You probably have already investigated all these areas but with the laws constantly changing perhaps something new has been added?

Listen, you may be too hard on yourself.  You know people have told me I am wierd all my life...well, I find some of them wierd too!  Maybe it comes with age but I could care less if people say I am wierd...I am and darn proud of it! Ha!

I certainly do wish you the best of luck and hope things will get better for you.  I'm sure there is a niche out there for you somewhere .  I know life can suck at times and with a MI it just makes it that much harder to cope in a screwed up world...be gentle on yourself!!!  God Bless, Jude
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1134609_tn?1269275800
It's tough being in our situation... I was diagnosed with rapid cycle BP2 about a year ago and have struggled, to say the least.. But, up until recently, I have been able to hold down a job, make a living and take care of myself..In the last two weeks, I have just been unable to function, mainly because I am working with kids all day. I am a substitute teacher and I also work at a local Boy's and Girl's club. When I am cycling, it' not responsible of me to be in a classroom or working with kids, and it's a huge liability. The bad episode that put me where I am right now happened in a classroom; I started cycling, struggled to keep it together and ended up going home. I've been laid up ever since; trying to get things figured out.

I don't tend to disclose the fact that I am BP unless I absolutely have to. I learned this lesson the hard way last summer.. I was a manager for a retail store and was going out of my mind; I hadn't been properly diagnosed and was hurting. I was working 40+ hours a week, just to keep myself busy and was 'functional' in most senses. However, it got out of hand and I ended up committing myself. After I got out of the hospital, I gave my employer all of the proper paper work, detailing why I was out of action. The first week back, my hours were cut pretty low, which I understood. But, I managed to wrangle up extra shifts from people and worked my way back up to 40+ hours.

However, each week, my hours were cut lower and lower; basically chopped in half every single week.. I still took whatever hours I could get, but came to find out that my supervisor was telling people not to give me shifts. Basically, I was getting to the point where medical benefits would kick in and they didn't like that.

I worked hard, did my job well, and was stable. But, the stigma of mental illness carried through and ignorant people caused me issues. I debated about taking them to court over the whole thing as they were basically forcing me out of work. But, other people were having their hours cut (just not as drastically as mine) so there was nothing I could do. The store fell back on the poor economy.. The issue with the manager telling people not to give me shifts was basically hear-say, so there was nothing I could do there.

So, I guess you just keep on trucking... I am getting better and hope to be back at work next week.. I may have to accept the fact that if an episode occurs, I am going to have to take a powerful PRN (Xanax XR), sedate myself, and just try and get through the day. That's not very responsible of me either, but I just don't know that I have a choice at this point; I have to get back to work.
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952564_tn?1268372247
I also was a "job hopper." All my life people would talk about how lazy and irresponsible I was, how I was a failure because I never held any job for more than 6 months. But, when I was in college, for example, I attended all my classes and I had straight A's, so I don't see how I was lazy and irresponsible. Now here I am 30 years old and here I come to discover that difficulty holding a job is pretty normal for bipolar people. This is the longest job I've ever had, and I try my best to keep it out of fear for my family only.

I guess that's a plus of having high anxiety and repetative thinking?
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1134609_tn?1269275800
I am/was basically in the same position as Xila31: I attended college worked very hard, finished up with an expansive education, that I continued to work on. Being in the education field requires you to keep on pushing through school; in some states, you have to receive a Bachelor's in 5 years or you can't become tenured. I was able to do so because it was easier for me to weather the storms while in school. No matter how I was feeling, I could drag my butt to class, hold down a part time job and work through my mental health issues.

I'm not in the state that many BP folks are; struggling to hold down employment because of the severity of their issues. I am very lucky and I wish nothing but the best for you folks that are hurting that bad.. I have a close BP friend who went manic this last summer, ran up huge amounts of debt as he was working 60 hour weeks and paying the bills seemed plausible.. They have crashed since then and have filed for bankruptcy.

I too am feeling the strain of student loans...It's ridiculous; over the past year; last spring I worked part time and took classes, they won't cut me any slack.. I have been laid up a few times; because of hospitalizations, and they won't cut me any slack.. It's just so frustrating because, with student loans, they rob Peter to pay Paul. It's federal and state money being funneled into a state and federal university. The interest rates basically only meet inflation; they're not losing any money on it... Even when I do get into a good paying, professional teaching position, I am still going to struggle to pay the loans. But, I am working with them closely, hopefully there is a light at the end of that tunnel.

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1192491_tn?1265035429
It sounds like you are doing really.  Best of luck to you.
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Avatar_f_tn
Wow I can so relate to you.  I also have a BFA and have been at home now for about 9 years.  I had received also my spec ed certification and was working with 3-5 yr olds a job which I loved with lots of hard work.  However, at each school ( I was specialized in children with autism) and I was very good .. the kids showed much improvement with me.  However, my colleagues wanted to run me out after a year or so.  I also helped them out alot which i learned is not a good thing.  Anyhow after going thru 5 crisis at same time I ended up quitting my job and now on disability.  ONe thing I know for sure is that when employers find out you are bipolar they treat you weird or maybe that's my paranoia.  Anyhow I have been looking or thinking of looking for something non stressful for a few hours a day .. during school hours as I am a single mom of 3.  The reason I want to do this is because I am so isolated .. the neighbors think I'm weird and dont really talk to me anymore. I dont have the energy to go anywhere to meet people wouldnt know where to go to meet people and then have to constantly check myself that I am doing Ok because I think my bipolar shows itself to others and they tend to stay away etc.... I dont know how it shows it self but it does.  I was in a Mothers group at my church and after several visits there I could tell that the others didnt want me sharing in the group and they really didnt reach to be friends eventhough i did so i quit.  I know I am intelligent and have lots to offer.  I am good at what I do, but for some reason I am always held back or looked at differently etc... So I just dont try anymore.  That probably is not the right thing but I have come so far learning about boundaries and if manic not to talk to much etc but it doesnt seem to matter.  When I was feeling better several years ago I applied for min wage jobs at local retail and other types of stores and eventhough I was over qualified I was not hired.  I dont know what to think.. Good luck with your goal... If you find a job that works for you let me know!
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952564_tn?1268372247
I will agree with you for sure that something about me seems to make people know I am different, even if I don't tell them about my bipolar. I think I've said in the forum before but when I was a kid I thought I was cursed. Kids were always more mean to me than they were to other kids. I always felt like I was an outsider no matter how much I tried to reach out to people. As an adolecent (adolescent) I often noticed people making faces that bothered me when I talked to them. Even as an adult this weirdness has not fully gone away. I had come to think it was just me being paranoid. When I tell other people about it they say I am over reacting. It is interesting to hear someone else with a similar experience.

But, I do think that as bipolar people we react to things differently. Maybe with a stronger reaction or unexpected reaction and people notice. Maybe? Or maybe it is just us being paranoid. I don't know how to tell the difference.
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1039200_tn?1314915608
I have also been a job hopper and spent a long time not working because of MI. I recently started work in a local shop as a volunteer as part of 'volunteering on prescription' they make you do when you're claiming sickness benefits. To my amazement I have been offered an interview for managers position next week!! I have been fairly unwell since my last episode which was a bad one and have not worked now for 8 months or so, although I feel a bit better now. This is a good opportunity - on one hand I feel I should 'go for it' and the other is more cautious because of the level of responsibility involved. Any advice for me anyone? Should I be upfront about my illness?
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1192491_tn?1265035429
I don't know that I would tell them I was Bipolar, you know how people react when they know you have an MI.

You know how you react under stress and mangement is stress and usually alot of hours but if you feel up to it, go for it.  If you feel yourself getting out of hand than you can always back out of the deal.  Best of luck to you.
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1039200_tn?1314915608
You're right, I've been thinking of suggesting a jobshare instead so I can work part time hours, sometimes employers go for this because it is easier to arrange cover etc when one is off sick. I know another person they are considering alongside me is also going to suggest it so it just might work out, I'll let you know how I get on, thanks! No I wont mention the bipolar, but it is going to be tricky to explain why I'm there 'volunteering on prescription' at the moment though if they ask!
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1174019_tn?1269856599
Tell them you owe someone in your past that helped you - they asked you to pass on the help as a sort of payment. Or, you're researching for a book you're writing. Or if you're going to get a better job in the future, I've been told that volunteering goes on a resume much better than nothing. I thought it would have been the opposite. Who'da thunk it...
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1039200_tn?1314915608
You are never gonna believe it, the job I was trying for  - the interview went well and everything, but last night the shop burned to the ground due to a gas leak (very lucky no-one was hurt). End of my volunteering and potential job, kind of solves the dilemma in a way eh? It wasn't meant to be.
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952564_tn?1268372247
O.O

Thank goodness no one was hurt! Talk about an act of fate.

Well, at least going through an interview and having it turn out well, you know you can do that part, right?
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1174019_tn?1269856599
Hey you still got it!
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1039200_tn?1314915608
Aw thanx folks! Yeah it was a good experience and something else will turn up when the time is right, cheersx
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Avatar_m_tn
OMG heyjude1,
I have the same experience, as well, I have no family support. This last episode has been so prolonged and incorrectly treated by my psyche. i have alot of difficulty concentrating and with memory. i have little tolerance for stress and very low self esteem.

I can't live without work, but I can't keep a job long either. I need to care for my young son and I am trying to find a career that allows me freedom to be ill when it comes (and it always comes).

I am hoping to start to support myslf as a painter and I am also starting a new relationship that I am afraid will end due to this illness.

Sometimes death seems easier than fighting some fight I can never win.
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Avatar_f_tn
Actually, in many states, in order to be a teacher you have a certain number of years (3-5) to get a masters degree. As far as I know, in the US, all teachers have to have a BS/BA minimum. Teacher's aides' education level ranges from HS diploma to a one year community college program.
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Avatar_f_tn
There is a debt forgiveness program.  http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/charts/public-service.  Check the site.
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5764859_tn?1400885356
My circumstances very same to yours. How are you doing now? I have no family support (wouldn't even care if they knew) it would be shrugged off as Im just stressed, yet they spill their hearts out to me about their health issues. Or either, I could tell my mom but she would tell the others who like my sister and daughter and niece have all pounced on me because I vented about something over Mothers Day that hurt me very much with my daughter and they bashed me, so I sure don't trust them any more. I work right now but like you said, sooner or later, Im going to explode again. This past week I had a mental breakdown. Tell me what you are doing now. God Bless You
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5764859_tn?1400885356
Boy do I hear you on that! God Bless You. And you can't even get something for nerves here, they want to tell you to try fish oil for example for cholesterol well, had my blood results for that after taking it for several years and its the same, not to mention it isn't a sure cure. And for anxiety, they give you equivalent to a benedryl. You are treated like your asking for your next fix or something.
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5764859_tn?1400885356
Hi. I did not know going through many jobs could explain the BP, now I see I have done so for so many years and have felt guilt and shame. My diagnosis was recent and am waiting on a more detailed diagnosis since seeing a new mental health counselor.
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